Body Dysmorphic Disorder
There’s a condition known as BDD: “Body Dysmorphic Disorder.” It can manifest in different ways with different people. The bodybuilder who’s at 5% bodyfat but is upset because he wants to be at 3%. Or the bodybuilder who’s not happy until she has just 1 more pound of muscle on her frame. Then there’s the anorexic, who – though she looks like a flesh-covered skeleton – is convinced she’s still overweight.
It presents in other ways as well: people who don’t like their noses, for example, and pay for expensive surgery to get them fixed. Many women are not satisfied with the size of their breasts, and many men feel the same about their penis.
Note that mild dissatisfaction with a part of one’s physical appearance does not necessarily indicate BDD. The problem occurs when thinking becomes obsessive. When someone constantly check themselves out in a mirror, concluding that what they see is unacceptable. It can get worse than this: BDD may cause people to isolate, to not engage with society. They then risk becoming bitter, lonely, and miserable.
Although I’m not a diagnostician, I have worked with several people over the years whom I suspect suffered from BDD. Because of this, I’ve created programs that help them to deal with their faulty thinking. I, too, have suffered from BDD, and have learned how to overcome it through various therapeutic methods.
The problem exists in the mind. One’s appearance is not at issue: it’s faulty thinking that is.
I’m a life coach in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, who also does personal training and weight loss coaching in Mississauga, the GTA and beyond. I offer online personal training, online weight loss coaching and online life coaching services as well.
How I help those whom I suspect struggles with BDD is by addressing their distorted thinking. Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helps here, as does Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness and Reality Therapy.
The sufferer believes that their problem is physical, that if they could only reach a certain physical “ideal,” they would be fine. What I’ve discovered – through my own struggles with BDD – is that the “ideal” never arrives. It’s ALWAYS never good enough. And so, without dealing with my thinking problem, I end up continuing to suffer. And I usually get worse as time goes on.
How to deal with Body Dysmorphic Disorder is far beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice it to say that it needs to be dealt with on the mental and emotional level. The problem is not physical. Even if you’re not at your ideal bodyweight, you need to learn to love who you are – the way you are – RIGHT NOW. If you can’t do that, it’s most likely that you won’t be able to love yourself when you hit your goal weight, because it still won’t be good enough.
You’ll have cellulite that you don’t like.
You’ll have some excess skin that you didn’t anticipate.
You’ll have a stretch mark or two.
Or maybe you won’t have any of these, but you’ll believe that your abs aren’t showing enough. Or your butt isn’t round enough. Or you’re still too curvy (even though everyone is telling you that you aren’t). The thinking doesn’t disappear when the weight does, because it’s a part of us, and it will sabotage us.
I’ve seen people give up on their weight loss program because they found their skin was getting loose. “I’d rather be overweight with tight skin, than thin with loose skin,” they tell me. Really? You’d rather take years off your life to have tight skin? Is this rational thinking?
It’s not. At the core of BDD is distorted thinking, and to hold on to it is to almost guarantee a sabotaged weight loss program. We eat when we’re upset and stressed: what could be more stressful than reaching our ideal weight and hating what we see in the mirror? It’s a recipe for relapse.
If you think you have BDD, then know that losing your weight, then getting a tummy tuck, most likely won’t help you to feel better about yourself. As mentioned earlier the problem isn’t physical: it’s mental/emotional, and I would argue spiritual as well.
You need someone to help you overcome the thinking. I can do that: my programs are designed to get you past the negative self-talk that accompanies BDD. I also have other professionals I can refer you too: sometimes a person’s BDD is severe enough that it’s outside of my scope of practice.
If you think you need help in this area, please reach out. You can call me at 647-677-6025, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk to you about how I can help you learn to love yourself, just the way you are. That’s the necessary precondition for a successful weight loss program, and for a happy life.